140 is not enough for NCT

8 Jan

I’ve finally found a situation I can’t deal with in 140 characters, so this is my first blog, sorry for the lack of pictures and fun stuff, I will get to that.

Yeh! I just have, quite good for gone midnight.

Firstly, I do know that lots of good is done by the NCT and that it is not all about Antenatal Classes, I would not like anything I do or say to take away from that, though it must be conceded that many people come to the NCT via their classes and they are the ‘Shop Front’ of the organisation in many ways.

Secondly, to those who have suggested I am “kicking off” a fight with the NCT because I am “promoting a project” please note this blog is not being placed on my website, it is free of any  promotion of any kind, and Bless you for thinking me that business minded, lots of people I work with do wish I were more that way inclined.

My first contact with the NCT came two years ago when I raised a question on Twitter “Anyone doing NCT classes? Can you tell me what prep you get for possible C-Section?”.  I was house hunting with a new Mum who was feeling confused and guilty about her C-Section and when I asked her what she knew about C-Sections from her antenatal classes she said she had done NCT but “just been given a leaflet about C-Sections”.

The tweets that flooded in knocked me for six, many said things like “We role played an operating theatre” or “We were shown with playmobile figures how many people would be in the room” but other tweets arrived saying things like “I had a C-Section, I was the only one in my class not invited back to talk about my experience” or “I was told if I gave in to “the cascade in intervention” I’d end up with a C-Section and wouldn’t bond with my baby”

I then received this email, originally sent to Miriam Stoppard and then forwarded by the author to my agent.

From: Nicola Ryan
Sent: 23 March 2011 11:01
Subject: For Miriam Stoppard from NCT

Hi Miriam,

I felt I had to write in response to your piece about NCT yesterday – and the Kirstie Allsopp caesarean story.

NCT does not want women to feel guilty about the way in which they give birth either. We do provide information about caesareans in our classes. And yes our classes are led by parents, so if they want to spend more time talking about home birth or pain relief for example, we follow the wants and needs of the group.  But you’re right to point out that 1 on 4 women will have a caesarean, and herein lies the struggle. Do we teach what women will experience for their first birth in an NHS hospital or what we hear women would like to experience?

If we teach to option 1, do we increase the likelihood of that happening, by dashing any confidence a woman has in her own ability to give birth normally? Or do we ensure that she is happy with the outcome that she might end up with?

And if we teach to option 2, are we setting a woman up for failure?

There is no easy answer but we believe it would be preferable for people to end their classes thinking ‘yes, I / my partner is capable of achieving the birth we would like’, than ending it thinking ‘birth is a scary and inherently dangerous experience and we need to be rescued by professionals’.

NCT takes its work – and this conundrum – very seriously, and is in the process of undertaking an extensive evaluation of all those who attend its classes. The latest phase of feedback suggests that around nine out of ten of all those who attended NCT classes across the whole country have found discussions about medical procedures useful, and over three quarters of both men and women feel that at the end of their course ‘know all I need to know’ about caesarean. Only five per cent left claiming they ‘know a little and want more’.

‘Empowerment’ is a word oft-bandied about in NCT circles. We want to empower couples to achieve the birth they want. Listening to those who attend our classes, we understand that for the vast majority, that’s a straightforward vaginal birth with the minimum of pain relief and medical intervention.

But the only ‘right’ birth, as far as the NCT is concerned, is a birth where the parents feel in control and well looked after. And NCT on a national level campaigns not only to attempt to reduce the rate of interventions such as caesareans, but also on behalf of parents who have had one, to ensure that their experiences is a positive, uplifting birth.

Best regards,

Nicola Ryan

Media Relations Manager NCT

Failure?! The only failure is not having a baby delivered safely into your arms.  It is patronising in the extreme to imagine that Twenty First Century women can’t focus on the positive while being aware of the negative, and goes against all medical advice that knowledge of what a procedure involves can reduce trauma.

Nature does not always know best, some births happen “naturally” others don’t.  Anyone with an interest in maternal health and the work of organisations like The White Ribbon Alliance knows this.http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/maternal-mortality-fistula-on-the-rise-in-rural-zimbabwe

The same is true of breast feeding, sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t, it is not just a case of trying harder or being braver and we have to be honest about that.  If the NCT were still the “Natural Childbirth Trust” and campaigned openly for births free from medical intervention it would be OK, but that is not the case, they are now “National” not “Natural” and branded as “The UK’s Largest Charity for Parents” this means they want to be seen as the go to place for all parents, this is how the NCT describe their antenatal classes on their website.

From where to give birth to knowing when your contractions are really getting underway, NCT antenatal classes are a great way to find answers to all your questions about labour, birth, being a very new parent and looking after and feeding your new baby

I remain angry at the unhappy, confused, disappointed tweets I have received, following my initial slightly petulant “Bollocks” tweet on the 3rd of January, and amazed at the discovery that the NCT website has 53 mentions of “Homebirth” and only 8 of “PND” (sadly, if you don’t know the abbreviation PND and just type Post Natal Depression into the NCT website you get no information).  I know the NCT cannot be the whipping boy for problems across the system; we do need an honest, open debate about the realities of giving birth in a western society, with a much higher average age for having a first baby than 20 years ago, and an ever increasing rate of medicalised conception, but telling women that accepting pain relief  means you are beginning a “spiral of intervention” which means you are more likely to have a C-Section, which means you are less likely to bond with your baby and more likely to struggle to breast feed is something that you do with great, great caution. The idea of a woman labouring for hours and turning away pain relief for fear of being a bad mother is barbaric, for some the pain of labour is almost a pleasure, for others it is profoundly disturbing and there’s no knowing how it will take you.

God knows there’s enough guilt further down the line, like when you realise that for most of the Christmas holidays your child’s five a day has been five chocolates a day!

I am not yet sure where to go from here but I know that unlike two years ago, when I failed to reply to a second letter from the NCT (a more considered take on things from NCT President Sue Saxey) because I was exhausted by the whole debate, I will continue to search for evidence that the NCT are helping all mothers towards a calm, realistic understanding of what can happen when you come to give birth.

PS This is essential viewing  you will laugh and laugh, if this link doesn’t work Google Dara O’Briain NCT

It’s only been a few hours since I posted this and I have had so many comments, unless the comments are very abusive I will approve them, regardless of whether or not the contributor agrees or disagrees with me,  I want this debate to be open and honest.  Please remember that “approval” in a blog sense does not mean I agree with a statement.  Thank you SO much for taking the time to post a comment on this blog.

Friday night, actually it’s Saturday morning, perhaps I should have analysed how much time I had available for a blog before I started, Anyhow this is my chat with Sheila Kitzinger


Sunday Night – Again I just want to say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for taking the time to post comments.  Every single one helps towards establishing what we all want from all antenatal classes.  One interesting point, in an NCT feedback survey of 2010 it was established that 31% of those women attended the NCT classes surveyed had given birth by C-Section.  If at the start of any class this figure was made known like this “I know many of you are hoping for an uncomplicated birth, but in a recent NCT survey 31% of Mums delivered by C-Section, so perhaps a good chat about what that actually involves, and maybe even an examination of some of the upsides, will be something you might find reassuring” wouldn’t that represent real progress? (Ditto breastfeeding, which so many of you seem to have found a struggle)

Just a thought, Kx


334 Responses to “140 is not enough for NCT”

  1. Jenna January 14, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    I aimed for both my children to be born as naturally as possibly followed by breastfeeding.

    Unfortunately both of mine ended in emergency c-sections and following by my milk drying up after a couple of days not to come back until 11days later.

    I did not find out until after my second section that actually my pelvis will not allow me to give birth naturally. It was not til being told this that I felt more like a “proper woman”

    Both my sections were very scary, my first was done wrong and left me with complications I did not find out until my 2nd. I have been advised not to have more children because of all my scars and the amount of blood loss so I have an 80% chance of not making it if I had another section (my husband had the snip after this info – brilliant hubby).

    The scariest thing has to be lack of knowledge. Everyone has the right to know that these things can/do happen and it does not make you less of a mother if you do not give birth the “proper way” or if you cannot breastfeed your child.

  2. miss h January 14, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    I can’t help but feel that some people MAY be taking kirsties blog a little too personally, all this labelling is no good for anyone. Whether a individaul has or has not had a c section is irrelevant, chose to breastfeed or the thought of it made them cringe we are a nation of stereotypes and it does no one any good. Yes there is research on early attachment and the effect of C Section on mother and baby bond but there is also research on controlled crying and the neagtive and beneficial effects it may have on baby. My point is that yes the NCT practices my well be evidence based but on the evidence that they want it to be based on. Im sure we can all recollect the mmr scandal, just because someone did some research and it was published im the lancett it doesnt make it true. I have recently been on the end of a baby friendly innitiative (BFI) lecture/talk , I was appalled at the messages delivered and the approaches put across however I had to remind myself that we each have our own views and opinions and our entirely entilted to stand up for these, however how appropriate is this when it is aimed at a vunerable, knowledge thirsty group of individuals. Perhaps it should be questioned why do mothers feel the need to access private ante natal clinics and should we be raising the profile and content of NHS ones.

  3. michelle kerr January 14, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    When I was expecting my 1st child who is now nearly 14 (omg where has the time gone?), the only class we were offered was by a 60 something health visitor. She was very nasty by talking down her nose at us, basically telling us what we could and couldn’t have during labour. When I wad asked if I would have an epidural I said no, her response was well you don’t know that for sure. Unfortunately I did know for sure as I’m allergic to the drugs they use, now the scarey part was she was my named health visitor you would of thought she should of had some knowledge of me!? Needless to say I asked to change my hv after that day, the downside I was never appointed a new one…. I now have a total of 2 children whom I love dearly but when my 2nd was born partially sighted and with albinism I could of done with some help (someone to talk to) there isn’t a day that goes by without me feeling guilty. Husband doesn’t understand (hes in the forces so doesn’t see all the daily struggles and extra things I have to do just so my son can lead a “normal” life), doctor says I’m overprotective, family is no help and feeling like I’m balancing on the edge.

  4. twinmum January 14, 2013 at 2:45 am #

    Well done, Kirstie, for standing up to the NCT! We took the classes when I was pregnant with my twin daughters. The main NCT teacher was generally ok about C-sections, though fiercely anti-epidural, and having twins, I was made to feel like a freak in the room from the very start because my pregnancy was never going to fit the NCT ideals. When I decided to sign up for a free NCT relaxation class it was got worse. I phoned up to book and let slip that I was booked in for an induction at 38. When the relaxation teacher asked me why, in a tone that made her deep disgust clear, I told her it was because we had done the research suggesting that 38 weeks is the optimal time for twins to be born. Leaving it any later and the risks start to increase. ‘Are you a midwife?!” she snapped. I responded that no, I had simple done my research and was quite capable of understanding medical journal articles. She then questioned my need for an epidural (necessary because my second twin was breech) and asked if I had spoken to a midwife about birthing a breech twin ‘apparently they just pop out’, she said. Well, they don’t actually and I just shudder to think what could have happened if I had been taken in mby this woman who clearly knew nothing about twin births but had to make it seem as if she knew best.

    I have worked with many charities, both professionally and as a volunteer, and have never come across any one so self-serving as the NCT. I laugh at the suggestion that they do a lot of good for new mothers because I would never attend their coffee groups etc because of how incredibly judgemental and downright unpleasant they were. I once volunteered for a newly-new sale but when the NCT volunteer running told myself and another volunteer that we were her ‘slaves’ and we would do as she said, you can imagine that I never did again. Well done Kirstie!

  5. anordinarylife January 14, 2013 at 7:06 am #

    I know I’m rather late to the table with my comment but I just wanted to share my experience. I have 3 wonderful daughters and had 3 cesarean sections and have often been met with comments such as ‘ah, yes but you don’t know what it’s like’. Well excuse me but I laboured for 16 hours completely alone with my first child after being induced in the evening and my husband sent home. After an epidural for a further 20 hours she was born by c-section after suffering foetal distress. For the other two I had the trauma of ‘knowing what was coming’ and having to recover from an operation while caring for a baby and a couple of toddlers. So please don’t tell me don’t know what it’s like! Although for a time I did feel like a failure, I felt that I hadn’t actually given birth to my own children and really who needs to feel like that when you have just had a baby?
    I certainly agree that there probably is too much medical intervention and I wish I had had natural deliveries but it wasn’t to be. I once saw a woman weep at a playgroup because she had had a c-section and felt that she had ‘been robbed of her birthing experience’ after her baby had gotten into trouble during labour! Some perspective is needed urgently.

  6. Anna Ruffle January 14, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    I have 3 children aged 3,2 & 8 wks, all born via c section. My first was with an epidural after 30 hour labour, my second was a crash Caesarian under general anaesthetic after quick labour (but he got stuck) and my 3rd was a nice calm elective c section. The NCT did prepare me for my section, I was lucky, but I am also the kind if person who deals with what’s thrown at me. I certainly don’t feel I haven’t bonded with my children. I do, however, feel I have missed out on the experience of “giving birth” ie vaginally delivering my babies. So the email u quoted where the nct feel that “preparing women for c section for failure” doesn’t help.

    I am also a very avid breast feeder. I had a few probs early days with my first, no.2 was plain sailing but third time round in having a nightmare with tongue tie and small mandible (meaning he can’t latch on as well) Nothjng will stop me, I am a bf buddy myself at a children’s centre, but I know a lot of mums would struggle to continue. Much more support is needed out there, without it is tough.

    That’s me finished!! Just wanted to share my experience!

  7. Sarah January 14, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    We were told that if we used pethedin or diamorphine during labour then there was a higher chance of our children growing up to become narcotic addicts. I think so much depends on the tutor involved. I have friends who had a much more balanced approach in their classes but sadly this wasn’t the case for us. As a first time parent you’re not really in a position to question the info you’re given. I’dthroughly recommend it as a way to make friends

  8. radiomoomin January 14, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Hi Kirstie,

    I wanted to add my experience to the many others. I too am passionate that women should be empowered to make their own – informed – decisions about birth. That they should feel confident in their body. And all the rest of it. But I totally agree with you that the NCT sometimes lets women down, if they don’t have a ‘normal’ birth (per their definition).

    I had an emergency caesarean to give birth to my first child, who was incidentally bleeding to death at the time due to placental abruption. Clearly I had no option, however I felt incredibly guilty that I had not given birth naturally, and ashamed. I felt that the NCT classes I attended discussed caesareans, instrumental births, and pain relief only in negative terms, in how they could/should be avoided. I would rather they took a pragmatic approach, helping women to accept that, whatever means by which their baby is born, they should feel it is an achievement to bring new life into the world.

    Oh and I just wanted to add – one ‘helpful’ point from our NCT teacher was to tell us that, in the event of having a caesarean, we should ask for the screen to be dropped at the moment of birth and this would help us to accept that we had given birth to our baby – as otherwise we might not believe it was ours. That put many crazy thoughts in my mind just after my caesarean, as obviously there was no time to ask for this to be done.


    • Natalie January 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

      Hi Rachel

      So far you are the only other person I have come across who suffered a placental abruption and really it helps to know I’m not alone.

      I was only at 32 weeks and it was with my second baby.
      I was so lucky to have had a ‘warning bleed’ so I was already in the labour ward when the abruption happened; it was then 17 minutes before my son was born by emerg c-s under a general. The situation was clearly very severe and thus my husband and I were not able to make any decisions regards the birth (actually neither were the midwives) and there was no time to discuss anything before-hand to prepare us.

      I can honestly say I have never been so scared in my life – in part due to the severity of what happened, but I honestly feel the fear was compounded by the absolutely terrible scaremongering ‘teaching’ we received via the NCT [regards our daughter – just 17 months older so still very recent].

      I only found out what happens during a c-s whilst recovering in the HDU! I was still scared out of my wits, hadn’t yet been able to see my son (as I was bed bound) and felt I should at least understand what happened to me the day before. Having paid for birthing classes with the NCT I really should have known all about the procedure before it happened!!

      I was unconscious at my son’s birth and my husband wasn’t allowed in the theatre. We both not only missed his birth, we also missed his first cry and his first wee and were not able to give him his first cuddles… he was rushed straight to ICU.

      The NCT mantras of ‘you must have skin to skin immediately after the birth’, ‘you must breastfeed immediately after the birth’, etc, etc were drummed into us so strongly that whilst recovering I was in constant fear that my son would not bond with me. I still feel very sad and guilty about missing the birth (he’s now 4 months old) – as if I wasn’t there for him when he needed me.

      Anyway, I will reply to Kirsty’s main article in this regard later, I just wanted to thank you for making me feel less alone.


      • Fiona Horne January 14, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

        Hi Natalie
        I just wanted to reassure you that you have no need to feel guilty about missing your son’s birth, first wee, first cuddle etc. My son was whisked away from me and went into what he likes to tell people was a ‘goldfish bowl’ for a week as he was so small and prem. As I had a c-section and rocketing blood pressure I was unable to get out of bed for 48 hours – so I didn’t even set eyes on him for three days, let alone give him skin-to-skin in the first few minutes of his life. He’s now 5, boistrous,healthy and adores me – he bears me no ill will for not being there for him at every moment of his first week. In fact, as he’s a twin, he and his sister have had to get used to being the one left out while I deal with t’other. They are both fine with this.
        Please don;t think that you weren’t there for him when he needed you – I bet you’ve been there when he needed you since and how! There are many ways we can mess up our children’s lives, but not being there to give them their first cuddle isn;t one of them! You’re doing fine, I can tell from your comment. Best wishes.

      • radiomoomin January 15, 2013 at 12:30 am #


        So sorry you had to go through that. I had a ‘silent’ abruption – the only sign was a severely distressed baby – I didn’t even go into established labour. Like you I felt I had missed my chance to bond with my baby and felt traumatised for years. It’s only now that I have had my second baby – another unavoidable caesarean – that I realise how utterly trivial the means of giving birth is. I feel it’s incredibly unhelpful for the NCT to fetishise natural birth in the way it seems to, as if it’s the be-all and end-all of mothering. If it was not for ‘unnatural’ birth neither of my children, or I, would be here!

        Please don’t feel guilty about your birth experience, your son will be totally unaffected and unaware – five years on from my first caesarean I can tell you it’s a very dim and distant memory, and totally irrelevant to the wonderful relationship I have with my precious daughter!


  9. mummyfication January 14, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    I’ve replied more thoroughly above and in great length (sorry) on my own blog http://mummyfication.wordpress.com/ but just had an extra comment regarding your objections to the use of the phrase ‘spiral of intervention’.

    I agree the wording could be better (somehow brings to mind axis of evil for me!) but it is worth bearing in mind that the NHS also tells mothers that having pain relief will increase chancees of forceps, ventouse, C-sections.

    This is from the NHS website:

    “Epidurals can prolong the second stage of labour, when you push and your baby is born: if you can no longer feel your contractions, the midwife will have to tell you when to push. This means that instruments such as forceps may be used to help you deliver your baby (instrumental delivery)”

    I’ve had two babies in NHS hospitals and asked for epidurals both times but didn’t get them as the midwives did everything they could to dissuade me and then delay. I find this far more worrying than the NCT issue. The NHS can actually dictate how your birth goes so if they are anti-pain relief then it is a much bigger problem.

  10. Rachel H January 14, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    NCT are a valuable organisation, but they do tend to have a vision that promotes natural – normal birth and breast feeding. Which is not wrong to do, it’s a good vision! Midwifery is now leaning towards the promotion of normal births, and more community driven work.
    To blame the NCT for not teaching people about C Sections is a bit strong. Are women not in control of their own experience, informing themselves about the possibilities of an emergency procedure? Yes, it would be nice for the NCT to cover the subject, but they are in no way to blame. Pregnancy and birth is a personal journey. Midwives- doulas- hospitals are there as support to give you informed choices. Birth is a minefield! Not every birth is straight forward, so you’ve to expect a degree of change and go with the flow.
    Self preparation… Don’t rely on others to inform you, it’s your life, experience, journey.. You make informed choices for yourself. There is a wealth of information out there.
    NCT in my eye is an organisation that attracts a certain type of person. I have witnessed NCT group ripping up GIna Ford contented baby books because its not in their vision of breast feeding. It put me off joining them. Sometimes they do themselves no favours in the way that they express their views and opinions. I’m all for natural and normal births and breast feeding. But I want no part of a group that tears up books as a ritual because it does not fit their vision. That is not showing a non judgemental attitude, in fact it was quite scary.
    NCT should include all information, but it is up to the “woman” to acquire that information and ask questions regarding her own birth and pregnancy.

    • Debbie January 14, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      And there in lies the problem…… You are describing natural birth as ‘normal’. This is a very dangerous statement to make in my opinion. You are therefore saying I had an abnormal birth because of intervention. Not helpful in the slightest….. I think there needs to be more looked into than just NCT’s approach. It seems there are women out there who don’t help other mums at all. I wonder if men have the same opinion? I wonder if their partner required intervention would they feel let down or that their partner had failed or had an abnormal birthing experience? I would hazard a guess not.

      • Rachel H January 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

        No i did not personalise that statement I said the NCT have that view, not me. I dont see any issue in promoting natural AND normal births. My issue with the NCT is how they go about it. I would like to think that they want to target all women from all backgrounds, now we all know that this isnt true. If it was then teenage mums would access the service, which they dont as i have worked with young mums and those who are socially vunerable. I have had intervention with having both my children but I would never consider it an abnormal birth. There is nothing like talking about personal birth experiences to get women talking. We all have different views on our births… Because they are all individual as are we.
        Yes the NCT need to reconsider their target groups and information that they promote and how they promote it. My experience with my local group hasn’t been positive, I never felt as though I fit in. I didn’t agree with some if their views and was made to feel an outsider because I felt differently.

  11. Ms F January 14, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    I didn’t do the antenatal classes with NCT, I was actually advised by my midwife to stay away from them because I have a medical condition and she knew I’d be left feeling disappointed with their high expectations. She didn’t say that outright, but I realised afterwards why she’d discouraged me when I mentioned NCT. I read up everything I could before birth and went to the NHS introduction and hospital tour. My son was forceps, he was healthy, we were happy and I thought nothing more of it until the NCT coffee mornings started. I joined the NCT after my Son was born to get the newsletters, local events info. and advice on breast feeding etc. Imagine my horror when I then received a welcome call at home, from a woman who didn’t know me and who tantamount told me that I shouldn’t be planning to leave a 6 month old to go back to work! She knew nothing about me, my partner or our circumstances and she just laid into me because I mentioned I was looking for a nanny share. There was no empathy, consideration or kindness and to be honest, I found the women at coffee mornings and other NCT events to be just the same on any given subject. I do believe this attitude, this judgemental and competitive clique mentality remains for when children start school. The playground would be a nicer place if the NCT groups hadn’t already laid the foundations of a cult mentality! It’s ridiculous…women need to be a bit kinder to each other. My Son was about 6 weeks old when I took the ‘welcome’ call and no, I didn’t want to leave my child to go back to work but at that point, we had no other choice and that woman’s judgement played on my already mounting guilt. I’ve never forgotten it and I don’t believe the women in my local area were empowered in parenting as a result of their NCT participation. Far from it….they were a right bunch of ninnies who appeared to frett about the most ridiculous things which in turn bred fear amongst everyone else. Thank God for my health visitor who told me the truth and who it turns out, was a very wise man!

    • Rachel H January 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      I had a similar experience. I wanted to get my son into a feeding routine as he wasn’t sleeping and he used me as a dummy… I really struggled with breast feeding but regardless I carried on. I went to a NCT coffee morning and a lady brought some books into to sell second hand. Her “contented Baby” book was bought and joyfully ripped up in front if the group. I was horrified. I then eventually decided to stop BF and I was bombarded with other people’s comments. Not all positive or supportive at all. I consequently left that group… I did not fit in with their behaviour or views. Becoming a mother is a minefield, all you want us someone to support your decisions or give constructive advice… I got neither from this group.

      • Ms F January 15, 2013 at 10:07 am #

        Rachel, I’m glad it wasn’t just me, though I’ve had several friends tell me similar coffee morning horror stories. I struggled with breast feeding too, it turned out I was hypothyroid and not producing enough milk – but of course, no one actually believed that at the time. I felt guilty for mixed feeding despite my HV ( a man, a brilliant, kind understanding chap) telling me to phase out breast even before my diagnosis. Eveyone was so disapproving of formula, I cant believe I let their disapproval get in the way of a trained health professional looking back! I’d much rather have had a fun group that still have happy barbecues 8 years on. Thankfully, I went back to work and lost touch with the local harridans – many who would walk past us without so much as a hello once I’d left ‘the circuit’. It used to make me chuckle, where’s the sisterhood? Walk into the school playground and you can tell the former militant NCTers from a hundred paces. I’d like to point out my DS is perfectly normal, happy and rather clever – Cow & Gate did him proud…

    • twinmum January 15, 2013 at 6:45 am #

      Very well said!

  12. Fiona Horne January 14, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    First, I’d just like to say that the NCT – and the various privately funded, midwife-led ante-natal groups – do a great deal of good in empowering women – and their partners – about their birth choices.
    Obviously, classes can’t cover every potential aspect of every birth as they have limited timescales and have to leave room for the breast-feeding information too. However the classes are only partly about information – they provide a great deal of support and networking both ante and post-natal.
    That said, the classes are run by people and people have their own prejudices and ideas. As a 40 year old first timer expecting twins, I’d gone to the classes with a pretty open mind – I knew that the chances of me having a Csection were higher than for a singleton. All and any discussion about CSection was about how I didn’t ‘have’ to have one, and that there were severe complications and that I should really be pushing (no pun intended) for a ‘natural’ birth, despite the fact that one of the babies was breech – as is common with twins – as the doctor could manually turn the breech one around once the first had been born. In the end, I got pre-eclampsia – something that had only been mentioned in passing as a possibility – one of the babies wasn’t growing properly and his heartbeat was dropping so I had a section, but I spent a weekend in hospital being monitored feeling terrified because all I could think about was that I was to have major abdominable surgery that I’d been persuaded I didn’t want.
    I’d been told all sorts of horror stories about how I probably wouldn’t be able to walk for days, or pick up the babies for weeks or even push them around in their buggy. None of which turned out to be true, although of course I was weak and had to be careful.
    What would have been better would have been an understanding that Csections do happen, though they aren’t ideal and some explanation of the process and what I and, more importantly, my husband might expect to happen.
    My Csection was, in the end, a very positive experience and I have two beautiful now five-year olds. However, I was the only one of my group not invited back to talk about my experience. I would really have liked to have been able to reassure women in other groups but wasn’t given the chance.

    • radiomoomin January 15, 2013 at 12:35 am #


      I was interested to read that you weren’t invited back to talk about your experience, I wasn’t either after I had a totally unavoidable c-section. I emailed my NCT teacher, as she’d requested of all my class, to share my birth story, but she didn’t even reply. That just added to my feeling of failure.


  13. Ros James January 14, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Thanks Kirstie for re-opening this vital debate. If I’d insisted on a natural birth as outlined by official NCT leaflets, both my baby and myself would be dead. I was unable to attend NCT classes as I contracted Pre-eclampsia so was hospitalised I was sent literature by the NCT teacher to “help with any decisions I WILL need to take for my birth”. I wished I could quote these leaflets but my mother and husband binned them due to the confusion and distress they caused – caused a women with a condition that is manifested by dangerously high blood pressure. The description of pre-eclampsia was correct (great) but the advice was to resist any medical intervention whatever. I was confused because like many others I had assumed the NCT is an authority on child-birth, that they are an official body and the literature is to be believed and then more crucially acted upon. The reality is that they are simply mothers. That’s people who have given birth then telling others how they should do it. They are not qualified in any way. I’m a fan of the NCT acting as an introduction facility for expectant parents but why do they insist on producing literature which is not medically verified? It’s frankly dangerous. And that’s without considering the implications of their advice on the emotional stability of new mothers.

  14. Kitty M January 14, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    I also wanted to leave a (rather late in the debate) comment about my own child birth experience.

    My little boy is now 17 months old, an extremely jolly and healthy little chap! He is my first and probably going to be only baby and I had him when I was 38. Long story but I lived in France for the majority of my pregnancy and should have given birth over there.

    In France the care is extremely medicalised and the majority of woman either have a CS or an epidural. They have gas and air but apart from that pethidine etc is not commonly available. Water birth/home birth etc is very much uncommon, although I believe is starting to become more common in the major cities etc although this is being led I hasten to add by a lot of the American ex-pats. The French ladies I met tended to think the English and Americans were completely bonkers to want a natural birth when they could have pain relief 🙂

    For matters I wont go into now we ended up back in the UK with two weeks to spare before my LO was born. I attended one midwife led birth class, have had no involvement with the NCT and have absolutely no regrets about that at all.

    I didn’t bother writing a birth plan, mostly because I didn’t even have time to think about it and also because most of my friends that had written one, ended up having a completely different birth experience than forseen anyway.

    Having anticipated an epidural in France, this was definitely the option I wanted to take myself and I am so pleased that I did. After my waters broke, I didn’t go into labour naturally and did have to be induced a day later.

    Although I ended up having an episiotomy and forceps delivery, my birth and hospital experience was the most POSITIVE thing and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

    I am a great believer in freedom of choice and ‘each to their own’, but certainly don’t feel like my little boy or I missed out on anything at all by not having a totally natural birth – quite the opposite!

  15. Naomi Gilbert January 14, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    Thank you so much Kirstie for opening up this incredibly important discussion. I never attended NCT classes, however had one “perfect” water birth in a midwife led unit and one emergency c-section.

    After “ideal” birth #1, I was on top of the world. However I rapidly descended into postpartum psychosis (which affects 4 mothers every day in the UK). I have blogged about this and its relationship to idealized motherhood more here: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/30204

    There is a distinct lack of coverage of postpartum mental health problems in any antenatal classes. As you have found out, this seems to be particularly true of the NCT!

    My “high intervention” birth #2 was a fantastically calm, supportive experience. This was especially important for me as I was at a high risk of relapse of postpartum psychosis. I was able to take careful, considered action after this birth to minimise my risk (especially protecting my sleep) and did not escalate into mania or psychosis. Had I felt the pressure to endure a ‘natural’ birth this time, who knows whether the outcome would have been the same.

    Keep up the good work!

  16. Mrs a January 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    But very often breastfeeding can be achieved by “trying a little harder” and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Whether you want to or not is an entirely different matter.

    I speak as a mother of 3 who struggled with mastitis, bleeding nipples and a baby in nicu on a ventilator for a week where my supply of colostrum dwindled to virtually nothing. I was hand expressing every few hours for a week until I could hold my baby – you have to work at the supply.

    I am not a martyr but I did want to breastfeed. You are doing women like me a disservice saying that “sometimes it doesn’t work”. Sometimes people don’t want to persevere, which is fine, but empirical data suggests it is very very unlikely that it just doesn’t work. Had it not been for the nct I probably wouldn’t have persevered with breastfeeding and I am very very glad that I did.

  17. alan dapre January 14, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    Hi Kirsty,
    As a stay at home dad and author I would like to add to the debate. My experience of the NCT was that they left us feeling rather inadequate ‘future’ parents and I found their literature to be very one sided and at odds with my own feelings. The book we were given – by a friend who had found the NCT to be great (for her) – was full of facts that basically implied that doing anything ‘unnatural’ was tantamount to a sin against the unborn child. Needless to say the said literature was thrown against a wall where it bounced into the bin (to be joined a few months later by Gina Ford’s appalling book on how to torment your baby into sleeping through the night or some such rubbish). You are right to start a debate and let parents join in. No doubt there is no right way to give birth and no right way to parent … but there are definitely wrong ways! All the best, Alan

  18. CatB January 16, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    My daughter was born just over 3 weeks ago by planned Caesarian. I had originally planned to use hypnobirthing techniques and was hoping for a natural labour on a midwive led delivery unit but a gestational diabetes diagnosis meant that I was strongly advised not to go beyond 38 weeks. I was told I would be induced but that if conditions were not favourable, a c section would be recommended. As my baby was not engaged and very much ‘free’ inside me, conditions were definitely not favourable and it turned out she was so high up, she had to be pulled down with forceps during the CS.
    As a first time mum I took NCT classes and although we covered caesarians, the session left me in floods of tears. The teacher could not have made it sound any more scary or traumatic. It left me feeling terrified. Bizarrely, the teacher asked us all to write down 3 words we thought we would feel after a c section. Mine were, tearful, disappointed and failure. I am sure that had the session focused more on the positives, my mindset would have been very different.
    Ultimately, my husband and I took matters in to our own hands, and knowing a caesarian was likely, did everything we could to research the positives and prepare me mentally and emotionally.
    On the day, the procedure could not have gone any better and my experience was Very positive. There is much talk about the mother getting the birth she wants but somewhere, the priority of safely delivering a baby seems to have got lost. And this from somebody who very much wanted to experience natural childbirth. However due to many unforeseen complications in my pregnancy, more than anything I wanted to see my baby born safely.

    Despite a great experience of the procedure itself, I have struggled physically, mentally and emotionally post c section. My milk has taken 2 weeks to come in and I did feel somewhat disengaged from my baby (as though a stork had delivered her!) but I do feel that this is partly to do with feeling like a failure for going down the c section route and how I was ‘prepped’ for a potential c section at NCT. There are many positives of a c section and these were simply not covered. Interestingly enough, neither was formula feeding. I had hoped to breastfeed my daughter for up to a year but I am on the verge of giving up already and due to her losing 15% of her body weight in the first 3 days, I have had to combi feed. I cannot say enough how emotionally traumatic I have found this and how, if NCT had been more realistic about the challenges of breastfeeding and even broached the subject of combi feeding in a positive or at least pragmatic way, I might not be feeling the huge guilt I feel now. At the very least they should cover the basics of FF. and I say this as a daughter of an ex La Leche League group leader!
    I am glad I took NCT classes but I really welcome this debate and would encourage NCT to look at how they might prep women more positively for caesarians and inductions and also give thought to how they address the subject of formula feeding…

    • Catherine January 16, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      CatB, I had a very similar experience about 5 years ago (both for the birth and feeding) and identify strongly with those feelings you describe only 3 weeks after your daughter’s birth. I can’t really offer advice (I tried writing something and then deleted it as I don’t have the answers!). Just to say, you are not alone, you’re doing a great job and enjoy your beautiful baby. The 2 things that I am glad I did? – Taking the decisions I made for my baby in to my own hands and getting out there and meeting other Mums, they were my lifeline 🙂 Good luck and congratulations!

    • Mrs L January 16, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Just to clarify the NCT are not lowed to teach about FF, just like the NHS they have to follow WHO guidelines which prevents them teching about it. However if you are combi feeding or have switched the NCT BF support workers will help you and give advice. Congratulations on the birth of your baby x

      • 1natasha47 January 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

        Both UNICEF and WHO adveqate supporting and educating parents who choose to formula feed. As most NHS hospitals aspire to UNICEF baby friendly standards the NCT should also give support to such parents. With the evidence clearly stating that breastfeeding can have increased health benefits for mothers and their babies I believe we should continue to promote and support breastfeeding, however I’m also a huge believer in informed choice and believe that given the correct factual information (not guilt or pressure) most people can come to a decision about how to feed that suits them, whether that be breastfeeding, formula feeding or mixed feeding. I have provided a link to the UNICEF Baby Friendly care pathway that advises health Proffessional offer support and advise to people that formula feed their babies. This includes demand feeding and promoting postions that encourage eye contact when feeding a baby with a bottle. Perhaps NCT may find this resource useful. https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=baby+friendly+formula+feeding&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari
        I hope this clarifies this point Mrs L

      • Mrs L January 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

        I’m not employed by the NCT (I’m a volunteer) nor do I work for the NHS however from what the NCT BF support workers have told me and friends who work for the NHS, the problem is BEFORE the baby is born. Once the mother has made the choice to FF once the baby is born then advice can be given by all parties. Unfortunately I have a lot of friends who have been told by midwives on the ward that they can’t show them how to make up a bottle and that’s not strictly true. They should be able to help at that point. The same goes for NCT BF support workers, they can offer advice after the baby is born once the mum has decided to FF and the ladies that I know will talk to a mum about combi feeding or ff etc if they feel it will help them.

      • 1natasha47 January 17, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

        Mrs L,
        You miss the point completely. The capacity in which you are involved in the NCT is irrelevant. The discussion was around giving parents all the information surrounding infant feeding. Are you suggesting that NCT and NHS staff should only discuss formula feeding when parents have made a definitive choice to formula feed ? How are they supposed to make sound decisions without all information being made available ? Do you not think it patronising to assume that the shear mention of formula will sway women away from breastfeeding ? Surely it is more sensible to offer parents all of the information to enable them to make a fully informed choice. If you read the UNICEF Baby Friendly care pathway information for formula feeding, you will note the pregnancy section clearly advocates discussing all of the options for infant feeding in the antenatal period. http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/Health-Professionals/Care-Pathways/Bottle_feeding/Pregnancy/
        I also think that traditionally NHS staff have not offered parents a lot of antenatal information surrounding formula feeding, however these new standards set by UNICEF Baby Friendly should promote open, honest, evidence based and non judgemental information giving. Surely this is also what NCT teachers should also be doing. I suggest that NCT may find this approach useful to better support all of their clients.

      • Mrs L January 17, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

        I’M not no, that’s what they are told. I dont make the rules!

      • Fiona Horne January 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

        It’s true about the NHS having to follow WHO guidelines – I remember a hospital midwife telling me this & being slightly exasperated about it. I didn’t realise the NCT was similarly restricted. What amazes me (& I mean the stringent following of these guidelines) is that there doesn’t seem to be any flexibility or any recognition that while breast in undoubtedly best, bottle is actually, kind of OK.

      • Mrs L January 16, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

        Exactly, this is why most NCT BF support workers will help answer questions on FF and if NHS health care professionals should do the same thing. Some refuse to even talk about it even when the mum has made a decision which doesn’t help anyone either.

      • c July 22, 2013 at 7:04 am #

        I was told by nhs mid wives that they were not allowed to advise me on ff when I needed to supplement feeds on medical grounds. I also phoned nct and other breastfeeding helplines and was told don’t advise on anything other than pure bf. The lack of support and advise for anything other than 100% breastfeeding leaves women in a dangerous position at a potentially vulnerable time. Maybe staff should be encouraged to see guidelines as just that, not rules, and have flexibility to help each family make the best choices in their individual situations.

    • Sarah January 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      My baby boy is 8 months old today and reading your message really took me back to those dark early days! I ended up in theatre after a very long and traumatic labour. I cannot describe how hard I found that first initial period and struggled with b/feeding. I personally found that NCT gave zero preparation for anything anything away from the ideal and feelings when it doesn’t (although I understand that this may vary massively from tutor to tutor). In the end after 2.5 weeks of tears and struggling my

      NHS b/f counsellor said to me if this is
      stopping you from enjoying this time then stop.

    • Natalie January 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      I just thought I’d offer you my experience re mixed feeding in case it helps…..

      Our NCT teacher made out bf to be easy and far superior to ff, to the extent that if you ff you were a bad mother as you were not doing your best for your baby. Like your classes ff was not covered at all.

      I had therefore decided as I was going to be a good mother, bf was the only way.

      My milk failed to come in after my daughter’s difficult birth. Apparently this is fairly common, yet the NCT said every woman can always bf if they want to.
      I think almost every midwife in post natal took turns to manically squeeze my nipples to no avail. I was in floods of tears when a midwife gave my daughter formula – from a cup as I refused to let her offer a bottle, again due to NCT teacher drumming into us that once a baby has a bottle she’ll never breastfeed.
      I left hospital 3 days later, still not producing milk, still crying and refusing to ‘deal with’ ff, so my husband had to learn how to prepare feeds, etc. I didn’t want to know. The midwife who discharged me said some women just don’t produce milk and I may be one of those. She also said that she ff her daughter which was a big help – if midwives ff it can’t be the dreadful thing NCT made it out to be!

      My midwife came to see me when I was back at home and thankfully gave me a good telling off for taking the NCT twaddle as gospel and managed to snap me out of the depression I was in and accept ff.

      A week later, I was happily ff my daughter (by bottle) and pumping my breasts to stimulate them after each feed. Another week later and she was 75% breastfed.

      I continued to mix feed until she was 7 months old and she never had any difficulty switching between bf and ff. I would recommend mix feeding to anyone – you get the best of both worlds.

      I was lucky in that my milk did finally come in, but it took weeks of pumping and was not the ‘easy’, ‘natural’ thing the NCT made it out to be. It was a huge struggle.

      Please don’t ever feel guilty for offering your baby formula. Being a good mum is giving your baby what they need, when they need it, by whatever method suits you as a family and is achievable. If you end up switching entirely to formula your baby will thrive and love you for it. You’re doing great! Take care x

      • c July 22, 2013 at 6:52 am #

        Great advice, I experienced something similar with midwives bullying and patronising me about feeding, grabbing at my breasts etc when I was struggling with a large hungry baby with low glucose levels. Fortunately a health visitor intervened when his weight continued to drop which I was told to ignore by a mv who believed bf always worked out in the end. This is a dangerous opinion to give new nursing mothers. A friend of mine belived this and ended up with a malnourished baby who needed medical assistance and could have developmental damage. I cried giving him his first ff as I had convinced myself I was condemning him to eczema, asthma etc and I expressed milk for 7 months to keep up the bf. I was told I wouldn’t bond with him if I couldn’t feed him directly even though he was getting more than 50% expressed milk. I was also judged by smug breastfeeders who asked me if I always bottle fed or when I had “given up”, they were surprised when I told them it was breast milk in the bottle, but really the contents was none of there business. I was robbed of precious bonding time with my son I will never get back because of all the confusion and guilt. I would never let them near me again. Most of the information nct and midwives give is opinion and guidance which is presented as fact. Very damaging. I agree just do what you need to do and enjoy your child which is the most important thing.

  19. Anne January 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    As with many of the other parents who have commented, we primarily joined NCT to meet new people, I had no expectations of what the classes would entail. No doubt there was a huge focus on vaginal births and the assumption was that this would be the norm for all of us participating, to be honest I can’t even remember whether c-sections were discussed. We were told that should we require a c-section it would (or should) only be in case of an emergency and that the cost to the NHS was around £7000 the implication being that a vaginal delivery was clearly more cost effective so therefore the effort should really be on pushing it out lest you become a drain on valuable resources. I am not sure what the actual cost of a c section is but £7000 sounds rather a lot? Whether or not this figure is accurate this is what we were told, our teacher was prone to exaggeration (my personal opinion). She also loved the sound of her own voice and would use the sessions to discuss how she raised her family of 5, so much so that classes often ran over time finishing at around 10.15 pm meaning heavily pregnant women, all of us working full time had to then navigate winter roads. She extolled the virtues of breast feeding (we later discovered she bottle fed her eldest child) and whilst I always intended to breast feed I still felt guilty for even considering giving my eldest a bottle. In the end my hand was forced as I ran out of milk by 5 months. I did feel I had failed, after all 6 months is the recommendation! In hindsight I should have formula fed her earlier although she put on weight and followed her centile line faithfully – she was hungry! I recognise that now but hindsight is exactly that. My second child is now 4 months and still I stubbornly refuse to bottle feed despite sleepless nights and coping with my nearly 2 yr old – why? Because NCT and much of the parental literature discuss how wonderful breast feeding is, about how it’s a wonderful bonding experience (bonding with a leach one mum put it) about how much happier and healthier everyone will be if you do it. To not do so would be like admitting failure and besides a little voice inside me says ‘it shows how much you love your baby because you’re doing what’s best’ which I know is utter rubbish. I must admit though to feeling horribly smug about being able to breast feed which is a terrible thing to admit and I’m ashamed to say it but an awful part of me thinks if I can suffer sleeplessness, damp bras and soaking breast pads, shouldn’t everyone? Although the next few nights will determine whether we crack open a bottle and give in to the miracle that is formula. NCT is great depending on your stance of our original group of 9 around 3 renewed their membership, we were unlucky I think with our teacher, she even forgot to add our babies births into the local NCT newsletter! I also want to mention that we took our eldest to a cranial osteopath who really disapproved of formula feeding and made me feel hideous for supplementing breast feeding with a bottle, but don’t get me started on him! Ps if anyone wants to read a practical and informative book on c sections there is one by
    Leigh East.

  20. Sophie January 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    I always felt that NCT classes were for a group of stuck up Mums with more money than sense. I was fortunate to have a Mum and a mother in law with common sense who helped me once my son was born at 33 weeks (very scary and nobody could have prepared us for that) and my daughter at full term. I do believe there should be a helpful group who give you as much information as possible on ALL possible eventualities without prejudice or preference to any “particular” way.

  21. Isadora Watts January 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    Wow, makes me glad we avoided NCT. I had heard some bad press about the breastfeeding fanaticism (I fully intend to breastfeed, but am tired of being lectured about why it’s so important, I figure what I’ll really need is practical help after the birth) – plus we already have friends with new babies so didn’t feel the need to make new ones.

    Instead we went to an Active Birthing Course – much more ‘hippy’ but actually, it sounds like it was much more pragmatic. The class was, of course, focussed on natural birth — and that’s what we signed up for. But they also gave some great practical advice in how to feel more in control, being able to bond afterwards etc in the event of needing various medical interventions. Practical stuff like asking to have the cannula inserted into your non-dominant arm for ease of movement & baby cuddling. Their emphasis was on staying calm and positive, and they stressed that however the baby arrives it’s a brilliant experience and achievement. Highly recommended!

    (We used the Active Birth Centre in North London, but I’d suggest anyone who’s been trained by Janet Balaskas is probably going to have the same positive approach).

  22. Claire P January 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Kirsty, I think your doing a great job in highlighting this subject but I would point out its not just the NCT you should be targeting. I went to a NHS class and they never mentioned c sections, were pro breastfeeding and wouldn’t discuss bottle feeding!! I was an older mother (36) so didn’t feel intimidated at all by it but I can imagine that a younger or less confident womanr would feel pressurised to give birth naturally and breastfeed! My mother and identical twin sister both lost a lot of blood and nearly died in childbirth but the health visitor wouldn’t even discuss this with me when I pointed it out to the group! Good luck

  23. Holly Dove January 17, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    I didn’t join an NCT class. For me, they were more about how to look after a baby and how to meet other new mums than about childbirth etc. I’m lucky that I have a huge family and have been an aunt since I was 9 (I’m now 33) and I’ve grown up with babies my whole life. I read a lot about birth, I spoke to my mum (who’s had 6 children) and my sisters and my friends about labour. I read blogs and forums and I asked questions.

    I did a gorgeous baby massage class once my daughter was 8 weeks old (to get out of the house!) and 4 our of 6 of the class had all been to the same NCT group. None of them have a positive experience of their classes regarding the advice that they were given on child birth. (One of them was carrying twins and had booked for and elective C-Section) she was never really given any advice other than “try to have a vaginal birth”. The 2 out of the other 3 had c-sections after long labours resulting in both them and their babies becoming distressed. They weren’t at all prepared for this by their NCT class. They all talk about an exercise of blowing out candles to help them get through labour?

    I went in to my labour with a birth plan, hoping that I’d spend most of it bouncing on a birthing ball and really trying to resist an epidural. In the end I was induced, I lost 2.5ltrs of blood, my daughter had the cord wrapped around her whole body resulting in me having a forceps delivery and then had a spinal to stop my bleeding and stitch me up. My labour lasted 6.5 hours. I think it’s VITAL that women are given ALL of the facts no matter where they go for classes. We have to be made completely aware that we might need intervention. No, we don’t want it BUT we’ll do anything we can to have our babies delivered safe and sound. I think it’s a bloody shame that in 2013 women are made to feel guilty because they had a c-section/forceps/epidural.

    So, Kirsty, I think you’re doing a great job in getting this debate out there, No, we shouldn’t bash the NCT, BUT they should be doing a better job at being honest and transparent across ALL of their classes. They should of course promote “breast is best” and that if you can have a vaginal birth safely, you should BUT life isn’t always so black and white. Sometimes, our unborn babies are in charge, and quite frankly, they should be.

  24. Cath Deans January 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Dear Kirstie,
    I’m sure you’re overwhelmed with comments but I just wanted to add my two penny worth. Cesareans were (luckily) covered in some detail in my NCT classes although there was a definite feeling they were presented as an unfortunate outcome. I gave birth to my first little boy a month and a half early by emergency cesarean. I can honestly say that, even though it was hectic, fast and unexpected, it was a thoroughly positive and wonderful experience, made possible by the hospital staff. It was the only option for my safety and that of my son. Had I not had them explained I would have been very alarmed and frightened by the number of people involved, the speed, the procedure and the recovery. As it was, I knew what to expect and, even though we took root in special care, I completely bonded with him and will always remember his birth with wonder and a huge cheesy grin. I have since had two more children by cesarean and, fortunately, they have both been equally as amazing. It is important each woman is given all her options, with realistic pros and cons, and has the right to choose (wherever safe to do so).

  25. Clarine January 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    I read your nct blog with a lot of surprise and question marks. Isn’t it wonderful that in this day and age their is the possibility to deliver babies by csection and leave mother and child in good health? Most of the time you don’t have a choice, so why judge? If you call yourself a teaching class, then teach! Which means talking about all possibilities and everything that might happen! Good luck with your quest! Greetings from Holland.

  26. BucksSingleMummy January 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Agree with all you’ve said Kirsty, a few additional comments. My NCT course was actually refreshingly non-judgemental, the only C-section issue I had was that having expressed concern over forceps or vonteuse, I was told by my NCT teacher that I would be able to request a C-section, rather than have forceps/vonteuse if they became necessary. I did manage to give birth vaginally and there was a suggestion of intervention which made me push with all my might(!) but I can’t really see that I could have requested the expense of surgery under the NHS if they hadn’t thought it essential.

    On breastfeeding, one of my NCT friends expressed for 6 months so that her daughter received solely breast milk via a bottle but refused the breast. We all thought she was amazing, turned out she felt too guilty compared to us (4 out of the group of 6 mums breastfed) to stop. The other bottle feeding mum had twins for goodness sake but she still said months later that she felt bad for not keeping up the breast feeding.

    I on the other hand felt ostracised for breast feeding! Out of my postnatal group of six, the only other one who breast fed did so only at home and used a bottle whenever she was out so I was embarrassed to be the only one getting my boobs out in front of the husbands (not helped by me also being the only single mum) and found myself sitting alone on benches at fetes, children’s centres etc. giving an impromptu feed.

    My local NCT branch failed to get off the ground apart from the antenatal classes, so my year’s membership only bought me a regular mailing of expensive products.

  27. Lisa Ponton January 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    I dealt with the NCT 14 years ago when I had my child – I was deemed a failure for having an emergency c section and again for not breastfeeding. A guilt I have carried for 14 years, I am not a failure – I bonded with my son very very well – I did what was right and gave birth to a healthy child – yes with medical intervention, I would rather that than lose my child.

    I would have hoped after all this time the NCT would be taking C sections seriously, new parents need all the help and support they can get – not be tagged a failure and left alone. I have no doubt they do help a lot of people – but the people who really need help and support are those for whom a natural birth and breastfeeding was not possible. No parent should feel a failure – they have created and given birth to the most beautiful and precious gift – life. Enjoy it.

    Well done Kirstie for helping give people like me a voice!

  28. Jessica Taylor January 26, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    I am fascinated by this debate accidentally caught just now on MN. I have had two successful c-sections, and about to have my third. The first two were done in Munich where we were living at the time, I am a self confessed Earth mother who has all but completely given up a successful international career to be a full time mum. I had absolutely no problems with bonding with either of my sons, and breast feeding came easily to all of us, in fact despite c-sections I have been far more committed and connected to natural and intuitive ways of raising my children in their infancy than almost any of my freinds or peers. And, this is not at all related to guilt or circumstance, but a belief in myself that this is the most important job I can do in life and that listening to my intuition will help me to do it well.

    My c-sections are the result of a pre-existing medical condition, which was in itself arguably brought on by stressful living in my twenties. My great consultant in Germany told me that whilst I could almost certainly deliver my baby naturally, there was a very strong risk that I might rupture or burst scar tissue from previous surgeries which would impede severely my ability to care for my young baby, and probably lead to further surgery, heavy duty antibiotics and almost rule out the possibility of breast feeding successfully or wisely. I went to my bed for two days after this news. My husband described watching my face drop in the consult as office, he likened it to having trained for a marathon and being told at the last minute to pull out.

    I have no regrets or fear of my forthcoming third c-section, I have made absolutely the best decisions in my circumstances for the health and well being of my family, and I am grateful for the advances in medical science and I wouldn’t change a thing about my birthing experiences, the moments that I met each f my children where the best moments in the world, and it didnt matter one iota that there were six strangers in the room wearing funny gear at the time.

    The point that Kirstie makes about the NCT is bang on! If the NCT argument stands up, then of all my freinds, I had the most harrowing birth experience of them all, I am the only one to have had c-sections. And yet, I can count on two hands the number of women in my close circles whose negative birthing experiences were solife changing they have almost certainly had a grave impact in whether they even chose to have future children, whether they felt confident and strong enough to take care of their newborn baby, and make the right decisions for them, in those very vulnerable early months. Most of these mothers are now ok, their children are school age and this is no longer an overwhelming pre-occupation for them. But, I question whether our entire society has a grip on the realities of childbirth, it is not a romantic experience and further more romanticising it through ante-natal preparation is deceitful, which is why I maintain that so many if my British freinds feel cheated by their experience. Absolutely, we should encourage as many people to have natural births as we can, I am convinced that most women can do it, but the idea that is is pain and risk free is medically unsound. Interventions have come about to protect mother and child from what is a dangerous sport, empowering women to feel in control is vital, as are techniques like visualisation and self hypnosis to get through ten worst, but the idea that accepting defeat to intervention is culturally very damaging, because too much emphasis is placed on the birth process itself. What is surely important is that we teach our new mothers to be that motherhood is hard, it is nt at all romantic, it is marred constantly with conflict and guilt, bt that it holds within it the greatest rewards life can offer, there is no perfect recipe for success, but they must believe in themselves that they can make the best decisions for their new family, and that this starts in pregnancy and birth.

  29. Janet Backhouse January 29, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    I was an NCT Advanced teacher and tutor in Devon and Hampshire, in the 1980s. As a practising midwife then, I used and taught couples classes and talked to professional groups about the work we did and support we gave. 8 weeks of 2 hour ‘classes’, plus a postnatal get together and then on to the ‘coffee morning’ support group. At that time NCT also sold the MAVA bra – the only decent nursing bra of the time, the Hexham bolster and Winganna fleeces, all of which have now been taken over by commercial concerns, but were pioneered by real women with knowledge of what mothers need. We talked about all aspects of labour including dealing with forceps and Section births, which were prevalent then with the resurgence of doctor led deliveries. At that time, the Association of Radical Midwives were fighting for childbirth to be treated as normal. When my daughter was pregnant in 2011, I encouraged her to attend NCT classes as I saw the frightening reduction in the basic maternity services, however I was concerned when I she told me that the NCT classes were 16 hours total but only over 2 days. She did not appear to be taught anything about techniques to deal with labour. She chose to use self hypnosis which was, for her, very effective and the labour (which I was privileged to witness from start to happy ending) went well. What I did observe about NCT which I consider to be crucial for new parents, is the support that this group gave each other during and after pregnancy and birth and is still giving after 15 months – Mums and Dads. Of course social media, e:mail and texting makes this easier than in my day, but if nothing else – and NCT does provide a lot of other services – this must be the most important function of the organization. After all, it was the reason that NCT was originally founded. Janet

  30. hilarylewin January 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    I haven’t read all the comments so have no idea if this is repetition, I have long been interested in birth and the surrounding time and in fact was the initial founder of Doula UK over 10 years ago which has since grown into a national organisation.
    My main point today is to try and change some of the semantics around birth and it was Sheila Kitzinger who taught me the importance of semantics. If we could start by calling it Caesarian BIRTH as opposed to section that would be a great beginning.
    Every woman BIRTHS her baby, the ways are many and varied but to deny a woman her BIRTH experience with either semantics, peer or personal pressure is a disservice to all.
    The term ‘section’ is emotive and unhelpful as a starting point for this discussion and I would like to see people choosing their words with care, it matters.

    • Fiona Horne January 29, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

      I think that is probably the most sensible comment I have ever read about this whole issue. Well done. I shall now start talking about my own experience as caesarian birth NOT section.

      • hilarylewin January 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        Thanks Fiona take a look at my blog hilarylewin.wordpress.com lots more to come!

  31. Sam February 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Hi Kirstie.
    Like you say, 140 just doesnt cut it! I can’t actually comment on NCT Classes as I didnt attend them, the reason i didnt attend them? I thought the NCT was all about middle class perfect mums. I actually “had words” with my husband in the waiting room on a dr’s surgery whilst flcking through an NCT newsletter when he suggested that maybe i could join, to meet other parents. There was no way i had any thing in common with them, and i knew that I wasnt going to sail through labout (i was so terrified of child birth i actually couuldnt think past it)
    So, i went through my pregnancy with no intervention from the NCT at all.
    and would you believe it…. i survived labour! (with a little internvention from the salad servers!!!)
    Yet, when my little girl was still only days old, i realised that 120 miles away from my family and 200 miles from my husbands family, and a husband that worked for him self (long long hours) that just maybe i could do with some kind of net work.
    So I emailed the local branch of NCT asking if there was a post-natal group locally that i could hook up with.
    I was terrified going along to that coffee morning. But it was the single most productive task i have done in motherhood. I met 8 ladies all with babies. I wasnt breast feeding (had tried but struggled with it and a prem baby) i never ever felt out cast for getting a bottle out.
    We couldnt have all been more different. one lady was a deaf teacher and had dreadlocked hair and doc martins, another lady was a GP! But we continued to laugh, cry and support each other through the next 3 years.
    I am now probably the most active volunteer within our NCT branch and am so proud of what we do locally. We have all kinds of people come to our groups, we encourage a bumps in the pub group (we do soft drinks and cakes) we have book clubs, we have baby 1st aid courses and our nearly new sales are a scream!
    I know that i dont actually have any thing to add to your debate of the classes and c-sections. But i do feel the need to defend what is a great organisation.
    I agree, that there are elements that need to be looked at and changed, the commments on here are proof of that. But i know that my sanity was saved and both I and my 3 year old have some rock solid friends and an organisation that suppported us thruogh that,

  32. Lise Sellers March 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    Hi Kirstie,

    I really appreciate you speaking out about issues surrounding breast feeding and c-sections. People do need to remember, as you’ve said, that all that should matter is mother and child health. I actually can’t imagine much worse than losing my baby at birth, or never living to meet my little one.

    We we amazingly blessed with ICSI twins in February 2012 and right up to the moment ey were placed in my arms I was terrified something would go wrong. I did a lot of research into the delivery of DCDA twins and wanted to avoid at all cost the 20% chance of delivering one naturally and then having an emergency c-section witht the second. I was also absolutely unwilling to put Twin2 at risk by delivering naturally so I decided the safest option was to have a C-Section.

    We went to a local NCT antenatal class and from the outset admitted that we were having a c-section. The leader initially tried to convince us of the benefits of a natural delivery but I stood my ground, quoting the research I’d done and my reasons for wanting the c-section and after that, our leader was very supportive of our decision. The course was very empowering and if I was having a single baby I would have happily had a natural delivery. We then hit a stumbling block where we were told at our 34wk consultant appointments by a registrar that our C-Section had not been approved and that our consultant was unlikely to do so. I was terrified. We were told that if I went into labour before our appt with the consultant that we would have to fight for it when we arrived at the labour ward. My husband was mortified that this was our only option.

    That night we had our NCT class and I spoke to our leader about it, I was so worried, I was reduced to tears. We had gone through so much to conceive our babies, the thought of putting either of them at risk was devastating. Our leader -Lynette Dudman, was amazing. She told us to call the head of maternity services first thing in the morning and beg for an appt with the consultant asap, and to ring our other nearest hospital, explaining the situation and see if they would be willing to give us a C-section if our chosen hospital did reject our request.

    We got our appointment wi the consultant that very afternoon and far from rejecting our request, she happily agreed and booked it there and then. We had endured 24hours of panic for nothing.

    I will be eternally grateful for the support Lynette gave us that night. She may well be pro-natural birth but she understood our anguish and really helped us.

    As it turns out it was extremely lucky that we did have a c-section. Twin2 did slip into a transverse position after the delivery of Twin1 and our c-section took a nasty turn as they struggled to get him out, leading me to hemorrhage. We did all survive though, which to me is all that matters.

    If we are crazy enough to consider having a third and are lucky to have successful treatment, if possible, I would like to attempt a natural delivery as though I have 2 children, I never went into labour and have no idea what that is like.

    Interestingly, of the 8 mothers from our antenatal group, only one delivered without intervention- the youngest, she was 23. The rest of us were 30+ and required intervention of some kind, 1 an emergency c-section. So it goes to show what a difference age makes.

    I would love to have breast feed my boys but my milk took 5 days to come in, on day 4 I begged to go home but when they weighed our boys to see if we could leave, they found that both had lost well over 10% of their birth weight as all I had to feed them was colostrum. All the midwives and nurses went into panic mode, getting me to feed for 10minutes, express for 10 minutes then top up with formula. Doing this with 1 child ever three hours is one thing but with two, I was absolutely exhausted. Eventually, it all just got too much, the boys were thriving on the formula and I just didn’t feel I could cope feeding them by breast on demand all by myself where I could get help feeding them formula. I was racked with guilt, felt a total failure and the only reason the baby blues hit was due to these feelings. I sobbed and sobbed, feeling like I’d let everyone down. Total madness when I had bought bottles, teats no formula just in case.

    I never felt judged by anyone but friends, who only had one child felt people looked and judged when they fed their babies while out and about. How unfair.

    One thing that really grates me are the sanctions posed on formula companies preventing them from offering samples, offers or any other promotion. In order to get information about the formula my children were drinking, I had to tick a box on a message that came up when I attempted to visit their website, acknowledging that breast feeding is the best option, blah blah blah. How insulting. I am the mother of a small child, not an imbecile. Most mothers do not feed their children formula because they didn’t want to breast feed! For most, it just didn’t work out for whatever reason. So while I can go out and buy environment-destroying disposable nappies on special offer, God forbid I should be able to buy the only thing I can feed my child, in the same way. It is ridiculous and I resented it enormously especially given I was getting through 2 tubs a week. We are not a developing country, our water supply is generally safe and as long as you follow food hygiene properly there is little risk of us giving our children food poisoning, so why subject us to the same stringent regulations as Somalia or the Sudan?

    Please do continue highlighting the politics of these issues, I think more people need to speak up about it.

    Lise Sellers

  33. H March 18, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    I had my first child 4 years ago. I attended nct classes primarily to have a contact network of other new mums which has been invaluable. I had a difficult 18 hour labour, after 12 hours I opted to have an epidural as I was exhausted. After a trial of ventouse and forceps I ended up having an emergency c-section. The midwife who was sat next to me during the operation commented ‘if you hadn’t had an epidural you might not have had to have this Caesarian!!’. I am a medic and despite knowing that this was factually incorrect it didn’t stop me from feeling as if I was a failure for months afterwards. My daughter was born safe and well which is by far the most important thing – if I had been a woman in Africa would we have been so lucky? I am not anti-midwives, every other midwife I have had contact with has been absolutely fantastic – I just feel that it is critical that individuals who are involved with antenatal care need to give us balanced evidence-based information rather than personal views.

    I have just had my second baby – I opted to have a planned elective c-section this time, despite there being no reason that I couldn’t try to have a normal delivery. By rights I should feel more guilty this time… I don’t… It was a wonderful experience. You certainly don’t need to push a baby out to have that instant wonderful feeling of unconditional love for them.

  34. Lovelymummyoftwins March 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I was pregnant with twins and from the start of the NCT anti-natal class made to feel like the ‘odd one out’. We all sat in a circle and spent so much time introducing ourselves and the instructor introducing the woollen (yes woollen!)model of a womb and birth canal that half of the first session had already gone by! The rest of the first session was a question and answer lesson in childbirth which was completely useless as the whole reason for going was because we DIDN’T know about childbirth and wanted to learn and be told instead of sitting there guessing…
    The second session involved pain relief and pictures of women in labour and more question and answers which again took up a great deal of time. There were a good many of us yawning (not just through pregnancy tiredness!) becuase we were bored of the lady waffling on and not giving us clear information.
    The third and final session was about breastfeeding, nothing else just breastfeeding, once again I was made to feel like the odd one out as I was having twins and it would be ‘different for me’, no suggestions were made to help me but just to sit and watch and listen, there was even a parent coming in to talk about breastfeeding. I was then made to feel even more out of place as I said I wasn’t planning to breastfeed (a decision fully supported by my midwife)and the instructor had no information AT ALL to give me about formula feeding, she actually suggested I leave the class early as the session with the parent wouldn’t apply to me!
    So my experience at an NCT anti-natal class was dreadful, I’m not saying every NCT class was the same as mine but I would never ever contemplate recommending attending one after my experience. And before anyone asks I didn’t complain…whilst leaving the last session I went into labour with my twins and have been too busy!

  35. Curlybird18 March 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Hi all. It was good to read your blog which feels like a breath of fresh air. I trained as an Antenatal teacher with the NCT and currently hold their ‘licence to practice’. All I can say is NCT drive me nuts with their outdated views , banging on about breastfeeding and home birth. On my courses I say feed how you want, birth how you feel safe . We talk about caesareans, bottle feeding, pethidine, relationships, PND and loads of other stuff. I try very hard to help couples make choices based on what they want. If that’s an epidural and bottle feeding then good for them. If they are happy and content, baby will be too and I’m a happy teacher. I teach with NCT because I can reach women and their partners and help them prepare for becoming parents. I consider myself a very square peg in a boob shaped hole as far as NCT is concerned!! There are lots of teachers in NCT like me quietly doing our thing. Please believe me when I say the ones in charge, the ‘spokespeople’ for NCT are out of touch, deluded and ignorant of what real women want and need. I refuse to peddle NCT propaganda and always will. Please don’t think we are all the same…I’m doing my best to make a real difference to the women I see. I hope the NCT will eventually change to reflect the realities of giving birth iand raising children n 2013. It is a good charity in many ways – it’s the policies which are misguided but, with blogs like this and a steady chipping away by teachers, we can only hope change will come.

  36. Alice March 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Thank you for this article! I have read it with great interest. I had 48 hours of induced, painful back labour (I was 42+3), with no epidural, there was no sign of any progress, numerous complications and a distressed baby so I was given an emergency c section. The midwives present rolled their eyes, were clearly disapproving and argued with the doctors- the doctors were hugely supportive and the c section was highly professional. The next day a midwife looked at my notes and her opening question was; “do you feel like a failure because you didn’t manage to have your baby properly?”. I had a beautiful, healthy baby in my arms that I had carried for 9 months- no, I didn’t feel like a failure- I felt delighted and thankful that options exist when things don ‘t work out. I have since had similar attitudes from a number of others- including the NCT tutor. The biggest problem is people being judgemental and making the assumption that their opinion is the correct one. However a woman gives birth she should be supported and cared for- it’s not a competition and there are no easy options.

  37. Sarah Loughman March 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    Joining you all very late but thought I would also put my birthing experiences over :-).

    We are lucky to have 4 beautiful girls aged 6, twins aged 4 and 8 month old. Now I didn’t attend any NCT classes so couldn’t possibly comment on them.

    All of our girls were born “naturally” without pain relief and I feel blessed that they were all healthy. The twins were born at 33 weeks so did require scbu care. Now I am not against pain relief I just chose not to have it. Although if my last labour had lasted any longer than the 25 minutes it did last then I would most certainly would have had an epidural as it was the most painful! I always say to expecting friends “you don’t get a medal for not having pain relief’! If you need it, take it, it’s free!

    I had spontaneous labour with my first and my twins, but was induced with baby number 4 as I had prolonged ruptured membranes!

    Again I breast fed them all but not for a long period. First baby was very hungry and fed for hours at a time, I could have easily read war and peace whilst feeding her! I fed the twins for a bit longer but not exclusively. Baby number 4 I fed for a little while but found it was taking time away from the other children so stopped.

    Each person is different as long as baby arrives safely it doesn’t matter how they arrive. Whether it be vaginally, section or instrumental. Whether you have no drugs, gas and air or an epidural. As long as mum and baby are well everything else is irrelevant. Same with feeding, some people love breast feeding and baby takes very well which is fab. But some mums dont want to and some cant. Either way as long as baby is fed whats the issue!?

    Think I have gone on enough now but glad I found your blog Kirstie and I think the points you make are fair and seem well informed xx

  38. Emma March 24, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    Thank you so much for raising this debate. My husband and I attended NCT classes last year when I was pregnant with our first child. Our son was born healthy and safely by emergency C section.

    My take from the classes were exactly as you express, that one form of “intervention” is a downward spiral into a C section. However, my biggest disappointment was the breast feeding class, which made it sound as if the whole thing was glorious, where the baby comes out and you “pop them on” and it’s all lovely.

    I feel the NCT should be more supportive of medical staff, rather than portraying them as C section happy. My biggest regret is not listening to the medical staff and taking the C section earlier, as what we had covered in class was in the back of my mind.

    As I mentioned, the breast feeding was where I felt most let down. I persevered with it for 8 weeks as all I could think about was the NCT course that told us if you give your baby one bottle of formula, immunity to various diseases goes down. After eight weeks of my son not putting weight on I finally snapped, moved to formula and I had a totally different baby.

    Sometimes, breast feeding just doesn’t work. There is nothing wrong with that, you have to do what is best for you and your baby. I just wish someone had said that to me beforehand instead of giving percentages of what diseases they won’t get immunity to.

    As you say, surely the most important thing is the safe delivery of a healthy baby and it’s important they stay healthy and both Mum and baby stay happy. If that means medical intervention and formula feeding, so be it. Parents feel guilty enough as it is about everything, we don’t need extra pressure to “go natural” as that doesn’t always work. If there wasn’t a need for medical intervention or formula it would never have been invented.

  39. Mick black March 25, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    When my son was born 15 years ago. I was advised by a friend that if the wife did not have an epidural, and needed an emergency c section then I would not be allowed into the operating theatre for the birth of my child. As this had happened to my friend. Her waters broke and 24 hours later she started to have contractions at this point she had an epidural. She required a c section due to the fact that my son was having proems breathing and in 12 hours she was not displayed enough for him to be born. Due to her having an epidural I was able to don a set of scrubs and be present for the birth of my child.

  40. claire Toplis March 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Never feel guilty . X I used to feel guilty about not going to NCT classes.

  41. c July 21, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    I have been horrified as a scientist and mother by the lack of real scientific evidence presented to parents by both NCT and midwives. Although many are may be well meaning they present opinion as fact, leaving parents deviating from their advice riddled with guilt, confusion and lack of confidence with their parenting. Others just enjoy judging other peoples decisions, and I say this as a home birther who NCT folk seemed to approve of. I know they and midwives would not have been so interested if I was a bottle feeding mum who might have been struggling. Friends of mine have also said they felt they were treated better by midwives because they breast feed, that is a disgrace – all parents should be supported. The judging is awful and I feel the NCT is a major factor. Parenting is really about doing the best you can in the circumstances you have. Your child will not be damaged if you deviate from birth and feeding ideals but it could be if parents are tired, exhausted, depressed and suffering. So any parent feeling the guilt please don’t, just do what you need to enjoy your child and look after yourself too.

  42. Fiona Flaherty July 22, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    I have 5 children, varying in age from almost 16 to 8 and a half months and I was never tempted to attend any kind of ante-natal class, provided by the NCT or otherwise. I was only 21 when I had my first baby but the idea of sitting in a circle discussing how my child would enter the world with other mums to be filled me with horror. And I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the fear I felt when I arrived at the hospital to the sound of a screaming woman in the next room, or for the fact that when the time came I had no desire to push whatsoever. This was not because no militant NCTer had whispered in my shell-like that it was natural birth or nothing but a simple quirk of biology and, of course, I needed help in the form of a ventouse without which my baby would surely have been in trouble. Obviously it is preferable for each delivery to be unassisted as much as possible in terms of how quickly you recover after but that is unrealistic and when I was pregnant with my 3rd child I was diagnosed with placenta praevia where my cervix was completely covered and the only way for my daughter to be born was by caesarean section under general anaesthetic because the risk of blood loss was very great indeed. Believing all the pro-natural birth propaganda I was incredibly anxious that the c-section my baby and I would die without would cause problems with bonding and breast feeding as well as an extended stay in hospital but in the event there were no problems at all and we went home 2 days after she was born.

    Following that experience, and it wasn’t a pleasant one but it WAS necessary, I was adamant that I wanted to have any further children with normal deliveries and this is something I did achieve. It’s what midwives want you to do, it’s what consultants want you to do, but I know if there had been any difficulties in the 2 subsequent births after my c-section I wouldn’t have hesitated to have whatever assistance they thought best and it would not have ever crossed my mind that I had “failed” in any way, as long as each child is born healthy and well what does it really matter how they were born? To me it doesn’t.

  43. Jennifer hinton July 22, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    I attended an Nct course with my first baby where the focus was very much on how to have the perfect birth, which in the opinion of my ‘teacher’ was a home birth. I have to admit I was nearly sold on the idea. To someone who has never given birth before the idea of having your lwn toilet, fridge full of food (like you care about any of this when you’re in labour), 2 guaranteed midwives (???) etc etc was quite appealing!!!! Thank goodness I didn’t as my baby was breach and because she came so quick I had to deliver her in this way. I’m just so glad I was in hospital with the right people around me to deal with it, had I been at home who knows what could have happened. I personally feel that it is slightly irresponsible to try and ‘sell’ home births to women who have never experienced child birth before. You don’t know how you or your body will react. I totally agree with your articles. My advice to Nct would be to be more factual about stuff rather than trying to ‘sway’ people on what they think is best, because what’s best for one person may not be for another, and focus more on the hard work which actually comes after the birth!

  44. Lucy Wootley July 22, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    There were six couples in my nct class. The only reason any of us joined was to meet other pregnant women in our area so that we’d have other mums to hang out with when we started maternity leave. We all felt that the classes focused far too much on the birth – what we really wanted advice about was how to look after our babies when they arrived. We’re not talking Gina ford or anything, just simple stuff like how many layers your baby should be wearing, how to sterilise a bottle, how to get a shower and wash your hair in the morning when you have a little baby to look after! Only one class even touched on this subject and I missed it after being hospitalised for pre-eclampsia. I had an emergency caesarean in the end – and yes I felt like I’d failed. However my class were happy to have me back to talk about the birth so I don’t think there is an issue with the entire organisation being anti-caesarean, however I definitely feel that more needs to be done to help women who need this procedure to ensure that they’re prepared for this major operation and how it might affect them. Perhaps there’s a gap in the market for a new organisation – something that works like a dating website for expectant parents. If it hasn’t had been for my nct group I would have had a very long and lonely maternity leave.

  45. Bella August 15, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    I haven’t read the comments and I realise this is pretty old but 2 things strike me. 1- breastfeeding; if you go into your attempt to breastfeed thinking you’ll ‘give it a try’ but there is always formula chances are you wont breastfeed, because it is hard at first! How have people coped before there was commercially available formula? How can we expect organisations like the NHS or NCT to promote formula when it is in the main a profit driven industry without being accused of a conflict of interest? Formula was invented for babies who could not have breast milk for medical reasons, not to provide a lifestyle choice. Sorry, but you really should try harder!! Unless there is a medical issue there should be no reason to not breastfeed.

    2- natural childbirth. I see no reason why we can’t be informed of all birthing types, but we should be aiming for natural birth if medically it is appropriate. Drugs and other interventions again are not there for lifestyle choice.

    • kirstiemallsopp August 15, 2015 at 9:46 am #

      The answer to your question how people coped before formula milk was available is that their babies died. Look up infant mortality rates across the world the work of organisations like The White Ribbon Alliance and you will learn how startling different things were and still are in many places. Formula is a miracle and so are C-Sections.

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